Claim: A state paper, The Chronicle claimed that the Government has abolished the death sentence in response to a nationwide survey carried out by the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and development partners last year, which showed that the majority of citizens no longer wanted capital punishments in the country’s statutes.
This follows the backing of the Private Member’s Bill to abolish the death penalty by the cabinet yesterday.
Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Dr Jenfan Muswere said the Private Member’s Bill was introduced in the National Assembly, and its main purpose was to abolish the death penalty in Zimbabwe through the amendment to the Criminal Law Code and the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act.
He said following ongoing debates locally, regionally and internationally on whether or not the death penalty should be abolished, the Government of Zimbabwe through the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs conducted countrywide grassroots consultations in 30 districts of Zimbabwe, three (3) districts per each of the ten provinces, after which a Report was produced.
“From these consultations, critical comments and views were expressed for, and against the death penalty,” he said.
Dr Muswere said cabinet approved the abolition of the death penalty and agreed that the circumstances attracting death penalty options include where the murder is committed against a prison or police officer, or minor or pregnant woman; or it is committed in the course of other serious crimes or where there was pre-meditation.
“In view of the need to retain the deterrent element in sentencing murderers, it is expected that the new law will impose lengthy sentences without violating the right to life. The existence of aggravating circumstances may attract life sentences,” he said.
The story framed the issue completely differently.
What does the current backing of the Private Member’s Bill mean?
According to Veritas, there is a bill on the death penalty abolition of 2023 which was approved by the National Assembly on 16 November 2023. The Bill was introduced to the National Assembly on 16 November 2023. It was first read and referred to the Parliamentary Legal Committee on 16 November 2023. The bill was gazetted on 14 December 2023.
The death penalty abolition bill seeks to abolish the death penalty in Zimbabwe and prohibit any court from imposing the death penalty.
“(a) no court shall impose sentence of death upon a person for any offence, whenever committed, but instead shall impose whatever other competent sentence is appropriate in the circumstances of the case; (b) the Supreme Court shall not confirm a sentence of death imposed upon an appellant, whenever that sentence may have been imposed, but instead shall substitute whatever other competent sentence is appropriate in the circumstances of the case,” reads the bill.
The bill also states that no sentence of death, whenever imposed, shall be carried out.
Veritas said the backing of the abolition by the cabinet simply means that the government supports the abolition of the death penalty.
“So, when the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs gets to Parliament, he will urge Members of Parliament to vote in favour of the bill,” they said.
A lawyer, Nqobani Nyathi said the death penalty has not been abolished yet, but there is a Private Members Bill aiming to abolish it.
“The death penalty has not been abolished yet, but there is a Private Members Bill aiming to abolish it, the death penalty abolition bill, introduced by E Mushoriwa. The bill is currently under consideration in the National Assembly,” he said.
Nyathi added, “After reports that it has received approval from the cabinet, it is expected to be passed by both the National Assembly and Senate before being signed into law by the president. This process will result in the repeal of the provisions allowing the death penalty in Zimbabwe.”
He said it is incorrect to state that the government has already abolished the death penalty, rather the abolition process is still ongoing.